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Image by Linda Mitchell
Round up this week is with Karen Edmisten.

Today is the first Friday of June, so that means Inkling Challenge! My writing group rotates a challenge for each month, and we post on the first Friday of the month as a group, The Inklings! This month Molly Hogan challenged us to write about a domestic task.

Truth be told, I did not read the mentor poem or write about spring cleaning because the truth is I’ve been very ill. I got Covid on a family trip to Seattle and had to stay alone in a hotel room for five days. My husband’s brother, who is a doctor, was nearby and on call for me, but there wasn’t much he could do. I just had to get through it, so I could fly home. I made it home on Saturday night. I’m still recovering, but I no longer have the virus. On Sunday morning, I read The Writer’s Almanac and used the poem “Joy” by George Bilgere as a mentor text. His poem was about recovering from the flu. I borrowed a few lines. The form helped me write again which brought me Joy.

Joy

after George Bilgere

Today I sit in the kitchen
with a glass of Gatorade, on ice,
my daily cocktail.
The door is open
to let in cool morning air.
I sit with my body, just the two of us
for a change. Covid has left us
and moved on to someone else,
with its knife well-sharpened
to gut and leave behind
loose limp skin.

I am sitting in amazement
that I am able to be here breathing.
Amazed at a body’s will to survive
even in the deepest dark cave of fear.

For a while I thought I would never get better.
That I would dissolve into dust in a hotel room alone,
not discovered for days. 

But every day there are miracles.
We wake up. We taste and smell the air.
Tiny eggs in a nest hatch into finches that will fly.

Today I sit watching a prothonotary flutter at the window,
make a mental note to refill the feeders.
The desert rose at my front door
welcomes me home with a fireworks show.

The tomb is empty.

Margaret Simon, 2022
Desert Rose

Other Inkling Posts:

Mary Lee Hahn

Molly Hogan

Catherine Flynn

Linda Mitchell

Heidi Mordhorst

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

As I was resting on the sofa in my living room, I heard a light tap on the window. Oh, no, I thought. We’ve had times before that a bird has flown into the window and either died or been stunned. I expected to see a poor thing lying lifeless on the deck, but instead was surprised by fluttering. The little guy flew to a nearby branch and stayed long enough for me to identify him as a Prothonotary Warbler.

I studied this swamp beauty when I was writing Swamp Song (which has yet to find a publisher).

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary warblers live in wooded swamps and forage above slow moving water. They hop among branches of downed trees searching for insects and snails to eat. They are a bright yellow color with blue-gray wings and tail. The male will select a nesting cavity in holes left behind by woodpeckers and chickadees. Prothonotary warblers are declining due to habitat loss. Prothonotary warblers got their names from the bright yellow robes worn by clerks for the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church known as prothonotaries. 

From Swamp Song by Margaret Simon

I am on the council for the T.E.C.H.E. Project as an education consultant, so I called our president who is a biologist and knows about birds. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Patti, I know some people believe their parents come back to them in cardinals, but I think my dad is visiting me in a Prothonotary Warbler.

Patti: Yeah. Yeah?

Me: No, really. This male bird is coming to my window and fluttering wildly. I’m afraid he’s going to hurt himself. What should I do?

Patti: It’s likely a young juvenile who sees himself in the reflection. They are very territorial. He’s stupid. He thinks he sees another bird.

Me: So, he’s just strutting his stuff!

Patti: Yeah, he’s showing off for ya’!

My first thought was my dad was not that kind of guy. Showy. No strut. But he was one who liked to tell jokes and hear people laugh. So before I chased the bird away from the danger of the window, I looked up at his sunny self and smiled! Thanks, Dad!

Prothonotary Warbler in cypress tree. (Not a bad shot for through a window with an Iphone.)

Design by Linda Mitchell

One of the wisdoms I have gained as a writer is that writing with others creates strong friendships because writing is such an act of vulnerability. It is true for the classroom, for writing workshops, and for critique groups. My group, the Inklings, are true friends. They listen, respond with integrity, and encourage me as a person as well as a writer. We live far away from each other, but we used Zoom long before the pandemic, and see each other twice monthly. This is all to say that when my father died, they did what they do best, and sent me a book of poems. I sat alone with these poems and let the comfort and wisdom of words wash over me. I offer a video today of me reading each poem sitting out by my beloved bayou. It’s 8 minutes long.

I drive the same roads every day as I travel between two schools. Both of my schools are rural, and I’ve come to appreciate the calm of the countryside. This spring the black-eyed Susan wildflowers have been in full bloom. Usually I am on a time schedule and can’t stop to take pictures, but recently as I was passing, I put on the brakes and put the car in reverse right there in the middle of the road. I took this photo. It was a bright sunny day and I took it quickly, but the next day the field had been mowed and all the yellow flowers were gone. I realized I should appreciate the present moment. The old adage “Stop to smell the roses.” What else are we given but this moment right now?

Country barn with black-eyed Susan wildflowers, photo by Margaret Simon

Invitation: Share your own poem in the comments and encourage other writers with comments.

No one can tell you what to do.
You have to be bold.
Some see weeds
where others find gold.

Margaret Simon, draft

Design by Linda Mitchell
Poetry Friday round up is with Rose today at Imagine the Possibilities

Awakening the Heart by Georgia Heard is a go-to book for me. I recently came back to it to find an inspiring poetry lesson (page 48) around a stanza of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem Valentine for Ernest Mann.

We watched this video of Naomi reading it and telling the story of its inception. Then we borrowed the words poems hide for our own poems. Avalyn says it’s the best poem she’s ever written (in her year of writing poetry with me.)

I was reminded of a resident at my parents’ retirement home. When my father was ill, I stayed with my mother in her apartment and got to know many of her friends. This is a true story about Angel, but after I gave her a copy of the poem, she had to correct me that the cats do trust her and let her pet them.

Poems Hide
in an Instagram image
of sunrise
a small songbird
the trickle of water
over a streambed.

Poems hide
in the calico that lost its tail
in the woman named Angel
who sits on the ground
to feed the lonely cat,
her hand out, longing for trust.

Angel laughs in poetry.

She gives me a Styrofoam cup
of cut roses aflame in her hand.
I find poetry
in the things I touch
and in your forever love.

Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

Poetry Hides
by Avalyn, 2nd grade

poetry hides
in talent,

poetry hides
in your favorite stuffed toy

poetry hides
in the beautiful Robin you saw hurt on the ground

poetry hides
in yourself and all beings

poetry hides
in magnolia flowers

poetry hides
in the things you love most

poetry hides
in the ones that helped you get awards and medals

poetry hides
in the lost and found shared memories

poetry hides
in your life and soul

poetry hides
in the book of quotes that helps you feel grateful


poetry hides  

Photographer-Poet-Teacher Kim Douillard lives in San Diego, California. We’ve never met face-to-face, but we are friends connected by common interests. Her photos of the beaches in California are always inspiring. This week I was taken by this photo of a broken sand dollar. Where will this muse take you? Please leave a small poem in the comments and write encouraging comments to fellow writers.

Half Dollar by Kim Douillard

Allan Wolf lost his father on the same day as I did. We had been in communication over a student Zoom visit when both of our lives were interrupted. Allan posted these words on Facebook, “Writing, like loving, is an act of faith. We bury a piece of ourselves and wait for something better than ourselves to eventually emerge.” Then I saw Kim’s photo. It’s all too fresh for me to write about today. Or maybe I’m just too raw. Nevertheless, friends, I leave these thoughts for you to make something beautiful with, as I know you will.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

On Poetry Friday, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater posted on The Poem Farm a slide show created by teacher/author Emily Callahan. Her 4th graders have been writing proverb poems after Amy’s. I shared the slide show with my student Chloe. She was inspired to write a prequel to Ms. Callahan’s students’ prequel poems. Here is her Fanschool page, Prequel Crazy.

Here it sits
covered from the rain a chess board
broken into pieces.
I allow access to
the board.
He has found a new home. 
I glue it,
I wash it,
I rinse it,
I dry it,
I wrap it up
and drive along a bumpy road
the perfect gift 
to my daughter
She asks, ” Where did you dig this up from?”
“One man’s trash is another mans treasure
Maybe you can do the same
Like with a blanket?”

Chloe, 6th grade

I wrote alongside Chloe. A poem about my sister’s plan to create a quilt from my father’s shirts. I left the last line blank so I could make it a prequel to Chloe’s. We enjoyed this playful poem making. Thanks, Amy and Emily!

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”

The girl sees patterns,
pictures in her father’s shirts,
gathered,
sorted,
cut,
stitched
into a quilt of many colors,
into a memory of many hugs,
into a dream of everlasting rest.
She sees more than anyone
a life lived as a husband, a father,
a doctor, an artist, a friend.
She touches every day what he wore,
a treasure in her hands.
Maybe you could do the same.
Maybe with a chess board.

Margaret Simon, draft

Today’s Spiritual Thursday Round-up is with Susan Koehler.

You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best you have to give.

–Eleanor Roosevelt

This month’s spiritual journey topic is from Susan Koehler, abundance. At this time in my grief, I’m aware of the abundance of people who care about me. I have received cards and flowers, texts and messages of love and support. These expressions are good, well-meaning, thoughtful yet sometimes difficult to accept. I’m much more comfortable on the giving end rather than receiving.

Susan offers a poem on her post today, one that can be used as a mentor text. This kind of exercise often helps me say what I mean to say without having to decide on the form. Last week during #verselove on Ethical ELA, Jessica Wiley offered a mentor text by Eloise Greenfield titled By Myself.

I worked through this prompt a few times and would like to share this draft today.

By Myself
after Eloise Greenfield

When I’m by myself
and I close my eyes,
I’m a running river
everchanging, yet steady in its way to go.
I’m a scent of yellow.
I’m a half-filled cup of tea.
I like to sit alone with me.
I grip myself in
I’m a string of violin,
time unfolding, worth gentle holding.
I’m a space for filling up again.
I open my eyes,
and find myself in me.

Margaret Simon, draft
Sunrise walk, by Margaret Simon

It’s Wednesday again and life continues to move forward. May is here and settling in on a warm breeze. Yesterday evening I attended a special Yen Yoga session in Jungle Gardens on Avery Island (known for its production of Tabasco). The evening was beautiful. A light breeze blew through the canopy of oaks, swaying the Spanish Moss. The calming meditation was just what I needed. I took a photo while lying on the mat looking up into the trees. I wish it were higher quality so you could see the moss that almost looked like blossoms as the setting sun glimmered.

Looking up through Live Oaks, photo by Margaret Simon

Moss blooms on an evening breeze
while yogis stretch in tree pose
longing to be held by Mother Earth.

Margaret Simon, draft

Please leave a small poem in the comments and support your fellow writers with encouraging comments.

Poetry Friday round-up is with Jone.

There’s a loss of energy in grief, a sadness that is heavy and weighs you down. I’m not at all sure that writing helps, but writing for me is the most personal act and wherever I am, my writing is there, too.

Over at Ethical ELA, Shaun Ingalls posted a prompt inspired by Alicia Mountain’s “Drift” inviting us to re-encounter something with a new perspective.

I Hold an Acorn

in my hand
in a field of clover.

Am I a child now?
Walking with sun
bright in my eyes as it rises
above the live oaks?

It is spring, to be sure,
a time of resurrection.
Yet you are
not here.

I cannot call
you or text (You never learned how to text),
so I stand in the field,
hold
the acorn
lift it to smell my childhood, like the scent
of the Paschal candle, anointing
to save,
to savor.

I am here.
You are
not.

Margaret Simon, draft
Grandmother oak in the morning. Photo by Margaret Simon

The Kidlit Progressive Poem is nearly complete. You can follow its progress with the schedule on the side bar. Karen has the next to last line today.